Opta Sports “We can help with player recruitment by using our stats”

Opta has established itself as the worldwide leader in the market of sports data since it was founded more than 10 years ago. With over 300 customers all over the world, Opta has become the go-to company for sports data and works closely with the biggest european clubs and the most prestigious federations. Opta deals with the biggest media outlets, bookmakers and also sponsors. Interview with David Collet, Director of Opta France. Read this interview in French here !

How did Opta come about?

Opta was originally founded in England by amateur footballers more than 10 years ago. In the beginning, they noted all the key stats on pieces of paper to build their own index. In England, Sky Sports bought the company and very quickly started to use the information collected at the Opta Index on-air to rate the players at the end of matches. Opta started to become an easily recognisable brand due to this. However, Sky used Opta for it’s own channels only and therefore the level of activity wasn’t particularly strong. At the same time, our current CEO was working on the launch of the sports.uk/.fr websites, which had been launched in Europe by the Americans. He had noticed that American culture has a mindset for statistics during and after games. Inspired by this American culture, he created the company SportingStatz to collect information and stats whilst the games happened. He then acquired Opta from Sky to create a new company, which gave stats during games as well as after them.

Today, Opta is an international leader in its market. We have offices in Latin America, in the U.S., in Australia and multiple offices in Europe. Opta has 130 full-time employees as well as 250 part-time analysts which ever-growing revenues.

Who are your clients?

With stats having an important place in many aspects of sport, we have the chance to collaborate with media, teams, federations, betting companies and sponsors. Currently we work with over 300 clients around the world. In the media, we work with the big daily newspapers in Europe like L’Equipe, The Guardian, Gazzetta Della Sport and TV channels like Sky Sports and ESPN. As for individual teams, we work closely with more than 40 European clubs including Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid. Elsewhere, the French, German, Italian and English FAs are also our clients. We help Ladbrokes, Betfair, SportingIndex as well as other betting operators. Finally, sponsors such as Castrol use our stats for their marketing campaigns to highlight the value of their partnerships.

The majority of your clients seem to be from the football world. What about other sports?

It’s true that football is the main driving force. However, football isn’t our only offering. We provide stats for lots of other sports, with rugby, basketball, cricket, and handball being our other key-sports. For example, in the rugby world, we work with the All Blacks, the French Rugby Union, Stade Français, Racing Métro, Toulon among others. Today we provide content for 30 different sports.

What are Opta’s strengths?

What characterizes us is the coverage in sport that we provide. Moreover, one of our features is the ability to be innovative and creative in telling stories with sports data. We are the only one in the market to have the ability to find the right figures in order to enrich the debate during a football game. Our flexibility is a strength too, we adapt our services depending to customers’ needs.

How do you cover the different competitions ?

We follow the game through televisions for several reasons. Our analysts don’t attend matches for both economic and efficiency reasons. In fact, when you are in the stands, you cannot see replays of the game… If there is any doubt, we have no way to review actions. Therefore, we prefer to cover it remotely (away from stadiums) thanks to different camera angles and replays. We also have developed software, which has 206 categories, where we can analyze with great accuracy every action that happens with the ball. For instance, we can select 10 types of passes : short passes, long passes, through balls, deflected etc.

When covering a game, how does Opta work?

We have 3 people for every game. One analyst for each team and a live-check who ensures that all the information inserted is correct. During the game, we record three types of stats : we record every touch of the ball, where it happens and when it happens. This is intensive work which requires both concentration and coordination. In fact, one hand is on the keyboard choosing the action, the other hand is on the mouse choosing the location. If there is any doubt, the live-checker is here to check actions. After every match, we check the game again to make sure that all the information collected is true. It takes 4 hours per match. 97 % of key actions recorded in live are right.

With all this information, what are the services that you provide?

During games, we send a stream of raw data to our clients. This information could be in the form of individual stats, team stats or stats over the season. For example, which player this season has taken the most shots outside the box. We also provide pre-match media reports. What distinguishes Opta is the editorial service we provide. This service is provided in 7 languages, and our experts are capable of meeting all of our client’s demands. For example, if Rooney is injured, we can know how Manchester United will function without him. We also provide a live dashboard and we respond to every type of question commentators may have during a game. No also have HTML widgets for websites, which 130 of our clients are already using. They are automatically updated and so the client only needs to add the widget into their website.

How many leagues do you provide stats for? Does the coverage change depending on the reputation of the league?

We offer two types of coverage. Firstly, we cover 18 leagues around the world, notably the 5 big European leagues (EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A) with comprehensive analysis. That’s to say, we cover every game. For the lesser-known leagues like the Belgian and Austrian leagues, we collect data such as the score, scorers, substitutions, league placings etc. In total, we cover more than 150 competitions in at least some way. For the past 6 years, we’ve also collected data for Champions League Matches and data for the Europa League for the past 3 years. Moreover, we hold statistics on all friendlies for the big nations from the past 6 years, and 90% of qualification matches for European teams for the European Championships and World Cup. We also have stats for all matches of the World Cup in 1966 and Euro 1982. This depth in the coverage of events allows us to offer our customers the most accurate information.

How do you help the clubs?

We’re very flexible with the clubs. We give them videos coupled with the stats for their games and those of their opponents. We provide them with specialized software but also paper reports after the game for coaches with collective and individual data inside.

Can clubs use your stats for potential transfers?

Yes, we can help with player recruitment by using our stats. Depending on their needs, we can, for example, compare 2 players and work out which player would suit the club better. If a club has specific criteria such as a club looking for a midfielder aged between 20 and 22 years old, right-footed, with an average of 10 goals and 15 assists over the last three seasons, we can highlight players who fit this profile.

To keep up to date with all of Opta’s key figures, feel free to follow OptaJoe twitter account! The information is always accompagnied by a word who sum up the tweet! Smart.




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Translated by Findlay Hood and Mohamed-Yamin Hamli 

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